Title: Within And Without
Spoilers: Takes place in Season 7 of BTVS right around the time of The Killer In Me.
Summary: This can be read as a stand alone fic but it is a sequel to Stones In The Road. Buffy and Willow are a couple; if you can't handle that there's no sense in reading this.
Disclaimers: Joss Whedon wasn't impressed with the first part of this story and is still laughing at me. He did, however, tell all BTVS viewers to write fanfic, so...
Distribution: As always, you want it, take it - just let me know.
Note: There's some dialogue from The Killer In Me that I "borrowed" and adapted simply to set this story in the timeline of the show and, more importantly, to put a different perspective on things.
Feedback: Still my drug of choice. My email is email@example.com
Willow pulled her legs up into her chest and rested her chin on her knees. Glancing at the clock once again, she shook her head. Sure, it was still early, but Buffy had promised to be home half an hour ago. With all the Slayer wannabes off in the desert with Giles for training, they finally had the house alone. Even Dawn was staying over at a friend's house tonight.
Alone. Together. Willow smiled, the anticipation making her restless.
But Buffy had wanted to make a quick sweep, more out of habit than of need as Sunnydale's streets had been quiet lately. Maybe too quiet, and that had worried the Slayer.
"Ya couldn't have gone out later?" sighed Willow to herself, looking down at the empty pillow beside her. "I'm beginning to think you're being all avoidy girl with me."
The clock beside their bed once again drew her attention and, out of frustration, she reached over and moved it so that she could no longer see it if she looked at.
"I'm also thinking I shouldn't be sitting here having a conversation with myself."
Kicking off the covers, Willow stood, frowning at the cold floor beneath her bare feet. The room was lit only by three candles but she didn't need to turn on the light as she stood in front of her closet, trying decide what to wear to go look for Buffy. Look for Buffy? Why not...no, she wouldn't use a locator spell. No need to use magic. Not if she didn't have to. And even then, well...
Hands on her hips, Willow exhaled, puffing out her cheeks. And her eyes were drawn to a black leather jacket draped over the desk chair.
Spike's jacket. He had left it here. Willow just stared at it for a moment, a smile slowly warming her face, any thought of leaving the house quickly forgotten. Stepping over to it, she ran a finger down one sleeve, the leather sleek, enticing.
Wriggling out of her pajama bottoms, she kicked them aside as she undid the buttons on her top, letting that slip off her shoulders, leaving both in a heap on the floor. Lifting up the black duster, she was surprised at how heavy it was. Willow eased her arms into the sleeves, smiling as her bare skin reacted with goosebumps to the smooth, cold lining. Inhaling the scent of the leather, she wrapped it around herself and made her way downstairs.
Willow reached the bottom step and stopped, suddenly less confident with her scheme than she was only moments ago. Wavering, she almost turned around when she heard the door knob on the front door turn. But the door didn't open.
"What the hell, it'll be worth it just to see her smile again," laughed Willow. Remembering that she had locked the door because she was alone, she practically ran to the door, grabbed the handle and flung the door open.
"Surprise!" yelled Willow, her eyes immediately opening wide.
Spike stood there, tilted his head and eventually smiled. Glancing down, Willow realized the front of the duster was open slightly. She crossed her arms in front of her, closing the coat.
"Spike," grinned Willow awkwardly.
"Willow," answered Spike, his grin almost as wide as hers.
"Um...what are you doing here?" asked Willow innocently.
"Actually, I came back for that," nodded Spike. "Don't suppose you'd care to hand it to me so that I can be on my way."
"Um...not at the moment, no," grimaced Willow.
"Well, this is...interesting," commented Spike, reaching for a cigarette.
"Interesting. Yes, it, uh...you know, I can explain," tried Willow weakly. Spike lit his cigarette then crossed his arms and smiled.
"It's not what it looks like," laughed Willow, pulling the coat tighter around herself. "Funny story, this. Oh yeah, big time guffaws."
"Really. Soooo...you going to tell me who you were expecting to greet at the door?" offered Spike.
"Well...um, like I said, it's not...see, what I mean is..."
"If you have to pry, she's waiting for me, Spike."
Spike turned and they both looked at who had spoken.
"Kennedy?" said Spike, his mouth dropping open. If he had looked over his shoulder he would have seen that Willow's mouth was as wide open as his own. Luckily, Willow recovered before he noticed.
"Kennedy? Right, Kennedy!" exclaimed Willow.
"Um, Spike, big favor to ask of you, but could you not mention this to anyone? It's kinda our little secret," winked Kennedy.
"Of course," smiled Spike, though he was still a bit thrown. He turned his head to look back at Willow. "I can be...discreet, shall we say. And good for you. Glad to see you're finally moving on."
"Thanks," winced Willow.
"Spike, let me just step inside for a moment. Willow can hand me your jacket and I'll give her mine," said Kennedy, taking a step towards the door.
"Um, ya know what? I think I'll run upstairs and get dressed. You guys stay here. Both of you!" added Willow nervously.
Willow turned and ran up the stairs without waiting for an answer. Spike and Kennedy looked at one another, smiling uncomfortably.
"She can be a bit shy," said Kennedy.
Spike nodded his understanding.
"So how long..."
"It's new. Very new," interrupted Kennedy quickly.
Spike nodded once again. Kennedy tried not to smile.
"Thanks for the bailout down there," said Willow, brushing her hair and making eye contact with Kennedy's reflection in the mirror. The lights were on in the room now but the scent of the extinguised candles still lingered.
"No problem," laughed Kennedy.
"You know, I can explain. It's not..."
"You don't have to," shrugged Kennedy. Willow did a doubletake.
"Really," repeated Kennedy, nodding. Willow put the brush down and turned to face Kennedy.
"Thanks," exhaled Willow gratefully.
"No, thank you. That visual was very...hmm, what's the word?" wondered Kennedy.
"Amusing?" frowned Willow.
"Intriguing," corrected Kennedy. Willow's eyes opened a bit wider but she smiled in appreciation. Kennedy's smile in return hinted at more than just appreciation.
"Still, you could've handed me your coat. Spike's a gentleman, he wouldn't have peeked."
"Hey, what are you doing here?" asked Willow, very quickly changing the subject.
"Just talking," shrugged Kennedy, though she still smiled.
"No, I mean...I thought you were with Giles doing the hokey-pokey thingy out in the desert."
"Oh, that's all done. Whoever he was trying to contact was very uncooperative. Maybe it only works with real Slayers," shrugged Kennedy. "Giles took the rest of the girls out for ice cream. Think guilt trip with chocolate syrup and whipped cream. I wanted to come back here."
"Why?" inquired Willow suspiciously.
"Camping out? So not a fan. Wanted to take a shower before all the hot water was gone," explained Kennedy. "And what are your plans for tonight? I'm thinking you're not sticking with plan A."
"No, plan A is...um, you know, Buffy should be home by now. Maybe I should go look for her," said Willow.
"There's always plan B."
"Plan B?" asked Willow warily.
"Yeah. It involves chocolate syrup and whipped cream," smiled Kennedy. Willow froze, not exactly sure what Kennedy was implying and more worried about what she was.
"Hey, what's up?" asked Buffy, just then walking into the room.
"Buffy! Oh, um, well, we were just, um..."
"I was offering to make ice cream sundaes. You hungry?" asked Kennedy.
"No. But thanks. And...aren't you supposed to be with Giles?" asked Buffy.
"The First Slayer didn't wanna come out and play. Giles took the girls out for ice cream. I wanted first dibs on the shower so I passed on the calories," explained Kennedy. She turned her eyes towards Willow. "Although, thinking about it, I did get a craving for something sweet."
"Oh," nodded Buffy, turning her attention to Willow. "Sorry 'bout the lateness. I had to chase down a vamp that I'm pretty sure was a track star in his former life."
"It's okay. Hey, you wanna hang around the house with a bunch of girls hopped up on sugar? Or...we could go to the Bronze," suggested Willow.
"Sure," nodded Buffy unenthusiastically. "Kennedy, you'd better get in the bathroom before they get back. Wouldn't want to have to take a cold shower, you know?"
Buffy turned and Willow followed her out of the room but not before waving goodbye to Kennedy.
"Cold shower? Sounds good right about now," whispered Kennedy to herself, pouting.
They both had spoken at the same time, had spoken the same words, and now...and now neither one dared to look the other in the eye. The music from the band onstage filled the brooding silence between them. The room was warm, too warm, almost stifling. Beads of water dripped down the sides of their untouched drinks on the table in front of them.
"This isn't working," whispered Buffy, slowly raising her eyes to look at Willow.
It took a moment for Willow to react. Even in the dim light of the Bronze her face seemed paler than a moment ago. Her eyes opened just a bit wider, her lips parted only enough to force in a sharply drawn breath. And then she blinked, once, conveying both her confusion and the rising panic she fought unsuccessfully to hide. Buffy raised her eyebrows in surprise.
"Hey. That's what you were going to say too, right?" asked Buffy tentatively.
"Wh-what? No, I...no. No! Of course not!" winced Willow. "I was..."
Buffy tilted her head slightly to one side, expressing her own confusion and doubt.
"I was going to say happening. This isn't happening," explained Willow slowly, closing her eyes.
"Oh," nodded Buffy, biting her lower lip and once again looking away.
Willow slowly inhaled, deeply, and then just as slowly let the breath out.
"Buffy, how can this work? Sneakin' around the way we do, you afraid to so much as touch my hand in front of the others. We can't hide anymore! We need time together, we need..."
Willow crossed her arms in front of her and turned her head. Buffy looked down at her hands and sighed.
"Willow," repeated Buffy softly, making her look up once again. "Will, lots of couples...gay couples...don't come out. They just...well, let people think what they want. Can't we, I mean..."
"Lots of gay couples? And how many gay couples do you know?" demanded Willow.
"Um, well...besides Giles and Ethan Rayne?" laughed Buffy.
Willow glared at her and Buffy simply nodded.
"Point taken," sighed Buffy.
"People who are in love don't lie, at least not to their family, not to their friends," spat Willow, lowering her hands to grip the edge of the table. "What are you ashamed of?"
"I'm not ashamed of anything!" yelled Buffy, immediately regretting it. She glanced around the Bronze but no one seemed to have noticed her outburst. Her face slightly red, she stared at Willow until she once again made eye contact with her.
"Sorry," whispered Buffy, but Willow made no response. "Will, I need you."
Buffy reached across the table but Willow pulled her hand away.
"No. You don't need me, you need my magicks to help fight the First. You're only using me, like a tool."
Stunned, Buffy's mouth dropped open.
"No! No, that's not..."
Willow's scowl silenced her.
"Well, okay, yes, I need your help, your, your magicks in this fight. Of course I do! But that's not what I meant!" grimaced Buffy. "I'm not, I wouldn't...Will, I'm sorry I had to talk to you like that before. Yeah, I was harsh, way harsh, but I had to convince you that you had to try again. That you have to believe in yourself. There's no one else who can do what you do. You can't doubt yourself, not now."
"I get that," answered Willow evenly, though her voice began to break. "But did you ask, even once...even just once, how I was doing? What this is doing to me?"
Buffy froze, both in her embarrassment and with not knowing what to say.
"I'm sorry. I didn't know. And, and I should have. Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," sighed Willow, rolling her eyes.
"Will, if you're..."
"Don't worry about it. I think you and I have bigger problems at the moment," interrupted Willow, intently watching for Buffy's reaction.
Buffy simply nodded and looked away.
"I want to tell Dawn," said Willow.
Buffy closed her eyes.
"But only her," added Willow quickly. "For now."
Buffy opened her mouth to speak but hesitated, seeing the hurt in Willow's eyes.
Her name hung there, Buffy's thought unfinished yet so telling. Willow slowly shook her head.
"It's just not a good time right now!" protested Buffy. "There's too many people in the house. I don't want them knowing our business. I..."
"We share the same bedroom now. Ever wonder what the girls are saying about us behind our backs?" snapped Willow.
"Yeah, we're sharing a room. Everyone is. There's just not enough space!"
"We're sharing a bed, not just a room. Well, at least we were," frowned Willow.
"I've been patrolling!" defended Buffy. "Will, I want this just as much as you."
"No. You don't," sighed Willow.
"Yes, I do! It's just...distractions are dangerous right now. You know that..."
"Is that all I am to you? A distraction?" winced Willow.
"No! No, of course not! Will, please, let's not do this. Not tonight," pleaded Buffy.
"Then when? Why not tonight? Buffy...I miss you. I, I..."
Willow looked away and wiped her eyes. Buffy took a deep breath. She reached across the table to hold one of Willow's hands. This time Willow let her.
"I know. I haven't been there for you. And I'm sorry. I'll make it up to you. Soon. I promise," said Buffy, forcing a smile.
Willow swallowed and wiped her eyes again.
"I miss you," repeated Willow, her words barely a whisper as she wove her fingers between Buffy's. "Just, just to hold you, ya know?"
"I know," nodded Buffy, her eyes tearing up. And then she pulled her hand free from Willow. Thrown, Willow noticed she was looking past her and turned to see Spike walking over to their table. Willow's shoulders slumped and then, very slowly, she turned and faced Buffy, her eyes wide open, questioning, challenging. Buffy caught on almost too quickly.
"No. Willow, it's not like that," said Buffy, shaking her head. Willow glanced down at the floor, her eyes unfocused for a moment. When she again looked up her mouth hung open in astonishment as the implications of what Buffy had said took hold. Buffy's eyes opened in fear, yet was that because of what Willow now thought...or because she had been found out?
"Willow, I swear to you..."
"Buffy," announced Spike, ignoring Willow.
"Spike, this isn't a good time," began Buffy.
"Buffy, I'm sorry, but this can't wait," frowned Spike. He finally glanced at Willow and shrugged.
"Sorry," shrugged Spike.
"No big. I'll leave you two alone," replied Willow, standing up and refusing to look at Buffy.
"Will, wait! You don't have to go!" implored Buffy, rising to her feet so quickly she knocked over the chair behind her.
"It's okay," answered Willow. She met Buffy's gaze and slowly nodded. "I understand."
Willow turned and walked away, letting the tears run down her cheeks, knowing that if she raised her hand to wipe them away Buffy would know she was crying.
Buffy watched her go and then turned to Spike. He stood there with a confused look on his face, glancing once in the direction Willow had gone and then at the chair on the floor.
"What?" demanded Buffy sharply. Spike frowned.
"Look, I said I was sorry," said Spike sincerely. Buffy sighed and shrugged.
"It's just, well, bad timing," explained Buffy, once again looking past Spike to watch Willow as she made her way to the door.
Spike shot her a puzzled look then hesitantly picked the chair up from the floor, as if to offer her a seat.
"Never mind," said Buffy, shaking her head. "What's up?"
"Oh. Right. I, uh, didn't want to bother you with this but, well, see, the thing is..."
"Spike! You're immortal, I'm not. You gonna get to your point in my lifetime?" sighed Buffy, hands now on her hips.
Spike moaned and grabbed his forehead with both hands. He fell forward and Buffy had to support him so that he wouldn't fall.
"It's the chip," managed Spike through clenched teeth.
Willow hesitated at the door, suddenly ashamed at how she had behaved. Buffy was over Spike, a long time ago. She had told Willow that. Cringing, Willow turned around, wondering how she would apologize to Buffy and allowing herself a small grin as she pondered the possibilities. She had only taken two steps when she froze at what she now saw; Buffy was holding Spike and his head was on her shoulder. Buffy's face showed her concern as she encouraged Spike to raise his head to look at her.
Willow couldn't hear what they were saying. Still, she just stood there, staring at them.
"Spike, how long has this been going on?" asked Buffy, one hand now resting on Spike's cheek.
"Last night. Off and on a few times today. It's over quickly, but the attacks last a bit longer each time and are more intense," shrugged Spike as if he were embarrassed.
"I'm not sure what's doing this, but we'll find out. We'll fix it," nodded Buffy confidently. She realized her hand was still touching Spike's face and she awkwardly withdrew it.
Only then did she notice Willow staring at them. Willow immediately turned and ran out of the Bronze.
Buffy closed her eyes and shook her head.
"Spike, let's get you home. No, this way, out the back," directed Buffy by grabbing his arm.
"Ow!" winced Spike.
"What? Is it the chip again?"
"No, you nearly pulled my arm off," whined Spike.
"Sorry," frowned Buffy, glancing one more time at the front door.
The cooler night air instantly chilled her but it was refreshing.
"Damn it!" swore Willow, only now realizing that she had left her pocketbook inside. She stood there, knowing she had to go back for it but waiting until her anger subsided. A few other people came outside and that could only mean that the band was on a break. Maybe she could blend in with the crowd and Buffy wouldn't notice her.
Willow turned, wondered who had spoken to her.
"Kennedy! What are you doing here? Is Giles okay? Did someone get hurt?" asked Willow quickly.
"Everyone's fine. Thing is, everyone is back home. Kinda crowded there now. Needed some fresh air. So...this is Sunnydale's famous Bronze. Care to give me a tour?"
"I was just leaving," said Willow coldly.
"Alone?" asked Kennedy, surprised.
"Buffy had to...what I mean is, Spike showed up. They needed to talk shop and I was feeling a bit third wheely," sighed Willow.
"Oh," nodded Kennedy. Willow looked at her a moment, then slowly smiled. Kennedy couldn't help but smile in return.
"What?" wondered Kennedy.
"I left my pocketbook inside. Why don't I give you that tour?" said Willow.
"Okay," agreed Kennedy. She followed Willow inside, all the way back to their table.
"Damn it. Buffy must've left," commented Willow. She picked up her pocketbook, relieved that no one had stolen it.
"You're not going already, are you? I think you owe me a tour," pouted Kennedy.
"Oh, right. Um, well, this is it," said Willow, extending her arms in a grand gesture. She looked around the room but Kennedy kept her eyes focused on Willow. "You like?"
"I like," nodded Kennedy, smiling.
"It's not much," laughed Willow.
"Yes, it is. It's new and...intriguing," smiled Kennedy.
"Intriguing? Never heard that word used for...oh," smiled Willow, catching on and now blushing.
"Can I get you a drink?" offered Kennedy.
"It's getting late. Maybe another time."
Willow turned up to leave but Kennedy called out to her.
"Come on, come on! Just hang out with me a little," pleaded Kennedy, wincing while Willow's back was turned to her, hoping that her whining didn't sound desperate.
Sighing, Willow turned to face her.
"You're sexy when you pout," said Kennedy, revealing only a hint of a smile.
"Why do you do that?" demanded Willow.
"To get you to stay," answered Kennedy with her own pout. Willow reluctantly sat down at the table.
"All right, I'll stay for one drink, then I'm going home."
"Okay. One drink. I can work with that. Be right back," promised Kennedy, making her way over to the bar.
Willow took a deep breath, staring at the empty chair across from her. She turned her head and watched as Kennedy walked away. Glancing over her shoulder, Kennedy caught her looking at her butt. Willow noticed and quickly looked away, pretending to be interested in the band now coming back onstage for their next set. Kennedy grinned and ordered their drinks.
Sitting down across from Willow, Kennedy pushed a glass in front of Willow with a tiny umbrella and a straw in it. Willow raised her eyebrows as she stirred the drink with the straw.
"I have a fake I.D.," explained Kennedy.
"Oh," managed Willow.
"Let's start with the easy stuff. How long have you known? That you're gay," smiled Kennedy.
"Wait. That's easy?" frowned Willow uncomfortably. "And you just assume that I'm, I'm gay. I mean, presume much?"
"Okay," grinned Kennedy. "How long have you enjoyed having sex with women?"
"Hey!" exclaimed Willow, genuinely shocked. Kennedy only laughed. "What you think you have, some special lesbidar or something?"
"Okay, you know there's a better word for that, right?"
Willow sipped her drink, ignoring the question to hide her embarrassment.
"You really haven't been getting out there much, have you?" asked Kennedy.
"Well, I just...can you always tell just, just by looking at someone?" wondered Willow out loud.
"No. No, of course not. That wouldn't be any fun. The fun part is the process of, of getting to know a girl. It's like...it's like flirting in code," added Kennedy excitedly. "It's using body language and laughing at the right jokes and, and looking into her eyes and knowing she's still whispering to you, even when she's not saying a word."
Willow tried to hide her smile by sipping her drink.
"And that sense that if you can just touch her, just once, everything will be okay for both of you. That's how you can tell," nodded Kennedy confidently, leaning back into her chair with a smirk.
This time Willow allowed herself a smile, making no effort to hide it.
"Or if she's really hot, you just get her drunk, see if she comes on to you."
Willow glanced at her drink and then raised her eyes back to Kennedy. The gesture wasn't lost on Kennedy.
"Three years ago. That's when I knew. And it wasn't women, it was woman. Just one," added Willow for emphasis.
"At first," whispered Willow to herself, a tightness rising in her throat. "Lucky woman," said Kennedy. "Do your parents know?"
"Yeah. My mom was, was all proud like I was making some political statement. Then the statement mojo wore off and I was just gay. She hardly ever even met Tara," shrugged Willow. "Classic," nodded Kennedy."I didn't mind. Tara and I are kind of private.""I'm sorry. It must've...""Were, I mean. Private," winced Willow, playing with the straw in her glass to avoid looking at Kennedy.
"Oh. So...you're not seeing anyone right now?" offered Kennedy tentatively.
"Well...sorta no, but sorta yes," sighed Willow.
"Hmm, okay, wanna explain that one?" asked Kennedy, taking a sip from her drink through her straw.
"You like that word okay, don't you?"
Kennedy ignored her, but smiled.
Um...see, it's kinda...what I mean is..."
Willow was interrupted by the slurping sound of Kennedy finishing her drink.
"Sorry," laughed Kennedy, though her face was red. She leaned back into her chair again. "Okay, you were saying?"
"Oh. Right. The seeing inquiry. Let's just say that I have feelings towards someone. Okay, more than feelings, I got it bad. But...I'm not exactly one hundred percent sure how she feels about me. Not anymore. Or, well, maybe not me, but girls in general. Not that she doesn't...what I mean is, there's this guy, an ex, and, um, I don't...I just...it's, ugh, it's so complicated. Did I vague that up enough for you?" frowned Willow.
"The color by numbers are getting filled in," agreed Kennedy. "But hey, I just didn't want to..."
"You're not," interrupted Willow quickly, shaking her head. Kennedy tilted her head slightly, staring at Willow.
"Okay," grinned Kennedy.
"Thanks. For not prying," explained Willow. Kennedy nodded, still grinning. "So...how long have you known? That you're gay."
"I was five" answered Kennedy confidently. "It was Gone with the Wind. I saw that, and I knew I wanted to sweep Scarlet off her feet.""You were five!""Well, I'm not saying the sweeping would have been easy," winked Kennedy, eating the cherry off her paper umbrella garnish. She noticed Willow staring at her. "What?""I just...I still don't get it," shrugged Willow. "Why you like me. I mean, you don't even know me." "Have you seen you?" asked Kennedy with a serious tone of disbelief. Willow felt a warmth rising to her cheeks and again played with her straw. "And we like the same things; Italian, skate punk, Robert Parker mysteries, fighting evil...""I don't like any of that stuff," laughed Willow, shaking her head but smiling. "Except the, the fighting evil part. Even then, I prefer a nice foot massage."
Kennedy hesitated, then leaned in just a little closer towards Willow."Okay. I dig the way you always turn off the Moulin Rouge DVD at Chapter thirty two so it has a happy ending."
Willow couldn't help but laugh in agreement.
"I like the way you speak. It's...interesting."
Willow smiled, suddenly realizing that this girl genuinely liked her. But instead of feeling happy, Willow felt a tinge of sadness...and, worse, a little guilt.
"And your freckles...lickable."
"Li-lickable?" stammered Willow.
"Huh? I said likable, not lickable. Although..."
Willow actually blushed, only causing Kennedy to smile even more.
"I'm not so into the magic stuff. It seems like fairy tale crap to me, but if it matters to you...you care about it, so it's cool."
Willow exhaled, wondering what she had gotten herself into, almost forgetting that she had only wanted to make Buffy jealous.
"Well, this is my stop," said Willow, turning on the light in her room. No, not just her room; this was the room she shared with Buffy. She avoided looking at the bed. Being alone here with Kennedy suddenly felt awkward.
Kennedy followed her into the room.
"So...glad we talked," shrugged Willow, stalling, wondering what Kennedy expected of her. After all, it wasn't a date.
"Yes," agreed Kennedy. "Kinda cleared the air."
"Yeah, totally," nodded Willow. "Air cleared. Check."
Kennedy took a step forward, standing in front of Willow.
"You know, in the spirit of air clearing...
"Yeah?" said Willow nervously.
"I feel like I need to be honest about something," sighed Kennedy.
"Is...is something wrong?"
"No," answered Kennedy quickly, shaking her head. "No, it's just...I think...
Kennedy leaned in towards Willow and even though Willow knew what she was doing, knew what was about to happen, she didn't try to stop her.
"You should know..."
Their lips met. Willow only hesitated a moment, then responded, encouraging Kennedy even more, each reaching for the other now. Willow pulled away, noticing that Kennedy still had her eyes closed.
"Well, that was nice."
"Nice? Only nice?" pouted Kennedy, though inwardly she smiled because Willow still had her arms around her.
"Well, yeah, nice. But nice like a freckle thing. Okay, I'll admit it, you, uh...you kinda took my breath away," said Willow, wrinkling up her nose.
"Wow. I'm flattered," beamed Kennedy.
"No, what I meant was...Kennedy, I can't breathe!" gasped Willow. She fell forward into Kennedy's arms.
Willow grabbed at her neck with her hands, her eyes staring at Kennedy in stark fear. Kennedy eased her onto her back, cushioning her head so that it wouldn't hit the floor.
Willow didn't answer. Her eyes rolled back into her head as they closed and her head rolled to one side. Kennedy instantly shifted her weight, kneeling by her side. Tilting Willow's head back, she pinched her nose closed with one hand and covered her mouth with her own, forcing in five quick breaths.
"Come on, Willow, breathe!"
Kennedy slipped one hand down along Willow's neck, pressing two fingers just under her jaw. Now she really began to panic; Willow did not have a pulse.
"Damn it!" cursed Kennedy. Locking her left arm straight out at the elbow, she found the bottom of Willow's breastbone and moved her hand up about a palm's length, pushing down with both hands five times. Leaning back down, she again tried to breathe for Willow, forcing air into her lungs.
Hearing a noise behind her, Kennedy looked up. Buffy was standing in the doorway, her eyes wide open. She blinked, obviously not comprehending what Kennedy was doing.
"What are...um, you know, maybe I should go," winced Buffy, already turning, though her tormented eyes were fixed on Kennedy.
"What!? Buffy, I'm not kissing her! She's not breathing!" yelled Kennedy.
Buffy was at Willow's side instantly. Kennedy again pumped Willow's chest to get her heart pumping.
"Willow?" whimpered Buffy.
"Do you know CPR?"
"What? Oh, um, yeah. Yeah, I do," nodded Buffy.
"Good. Give her mouth to mouth while I do this," shouted Kennedy. But Buffy froze, only staring at Willow. "Buffy, now!"
Buffy quickly covered Willow's mouth with her own but hadn't even breathed twice when Willow's eyes popped open. With a loud sigh, Kennedy sat down and nervously smiled back at her.
"Willow! Oh, thank God! I thought I had lost you!" cried Buffy, pulling Willow up into her arms. Willow just held on for a moment, taking in her surroundings.
"Wow. What happened?" mumbled Willow.
Buffy slowly eased back but still kept her arms around her, all the time staring at Willow's chest.
"Um, Buffy?" whispered Willow very softly, glancing at Kennedy. "I know you like 'em, but maybe you shouldn't stare. Not with Kennedy here, ya know?"
Buffy's hand came up quickly, firmly grasping Willow's throat and forcing her down onto her back again.
"Buffy!" shouted Kennedy.
"Buffy?" whimpered Willow, her cry muffled.
"Who are you and what did you do to Willow?" demanded Buffy.
Willow's eyes opened wide, both in pain and in fear.
"Buffy, please! You're hurting me," gasped Willow.
"You're not Willow. You aren't breathing and I don't feel a pulse beneath my hand," sneered Buffy. She loosened her grip slightly and Willow broke free, her own hand rubbing her throat now.
Buffy stood up, fists clenched, and Kennedy stood as well, instinctively moving behind Buffy. Willow slowly sat up, her hand still rubbing her throat. She looked up at Buffy, her eyes unfocused, her lower lip trembling.
"What happened?" demanded Buffy, looking back over her shoulder at Kennedy.
"We were...um, I, I uh..."
"I passed out," answered Willow.
"Yeah," agreed Kennedy quickly. "She passed out. One minute she was standing there, and then she couldn't breathe."
Buffy looked at Willow, her fists slowly unclenching.
"Willow?" whispered Buffy.
"It's me, Buffy. You have to believe me," said Willow, her eyes tearing up. Buffy slowly knelt down in front of her. Seeing how scared Willow was, she opened her arms to her.
"No, don't touch me!" shouted Willow, shaking her head and backing away. Confused and startled, Buffy lowered her hands.
"Willow, I'm sorry. With all that's been going on around here, I wasn't sure..."
"Buffy, this...whatever this is, it's powerful. Nasty magicks, the real dark stuff," warned Willow.
"Sooo...you're worried about me touching you...because of the magicks?" asked Buffy. "Will, I already touched you."
"So did I," winced Kennedy.
"There's that," agreed Willow meekly. "Nevermind. So, um, kinda needing a hug here."
She met Buffy's eyes and Buffy smiled for her. Buffy reached over and embraced her as Willow eagerly pressed her face into her shoulder.
"We'll figure this out," whispered Buffy.
Willow nodded but didn't look up.
"Um, Will? You want me to get you a sweater or something? You're so cold."
"No," answered Willow. "I don't think it will help."
"Is she...is she dead?" asked Kennedy.
"I'm not dead!" barked Willow, louder than she meant to. Admonished, Kennedy looked away.
"Sorry. I didn't mean to yell," apologized Willow. "I'm just a little upset. Sorry."
Kennedy nodded her understanding.
"Okay, question here," said Buffy. "What triggered this? There's no one close by to cast the spell, so how did this happen?"
Willow immediately looked at Kennedy. Noticing this, Buffy turned to face her as well.
"Hey, magic? So not my thing," frowned Kennedy innocently.
"Whoever's responsible wouldn't have to be nearby, Buffy. Did I mention the powerful part?" asked Willow.
"How do you feel?" asked Buffy.
"That's just it. I don't feel anything," shrugged Willow. "Though this not breathing part is getting annoying."
"Um, this isn't like that Halloween, right? I mean, I can touch you," said Buffy.
"No. No, this is...worse," sulked Willow.
"So this is like a, a glamour?" suggested Buffy.
"Kinda, but kinda not," frowned Willow.
"How can I help?" asked Buffy, touching Willow's hand.
"We. How can we help?" corrected Kennedy, eliciting a smile from Willow.
"I think I'm on my own with this one. Magicks? So my thing," said Willow, winking at Kennedy. Her sudden confidence quickly faded. "Or, perhaps I should say were my thing, emphasis on the past tense."
"You still got the magic, girl," smiled Buffy, now winking at Willow. Willow almost laughed.
"I'll start with a locator spell, see if I can trace the source."
"Oh, hey! Maybe I can get all trancey again, find the, the trace, the magic imprint thingy. That might work," said Buffy enthusiastically.
"Maybe. But I can do this quicker. Not that I don't appreciate the gesture," said Willow, patting Buffy's hand.
"You gonna be alright?" asked Buffy.
"I can handle it," smiled Willow.
"Alright, let's not tell anyone else about this right now. Maybe we can figure it out without freaking the others out. I think they're spooked enough as it is," sighed Kennedy, rolling her eyes.
Willow and Buffy nodded in agreement.
Kennedy lit the third and final candle, creating flickering shadows upon the walls. Buffy sat on the edge of the bed, pouting.
"Why can't I help?" whined Buffy.
"There's nothing for you to do," shrugged Willow. "Kennedy was in the room with me when it happened, that's why she gets to light the candles," explained Willow.
Buffy only pouted even more.
"This'll only take a minute," comforted Willow, trying not to smile. Kennedy got up and looked down the hallway but the house was quiet. She shut the door behind her.
"I think everyone's asleep now. I know Molly is. I can hear her snoring," giggled Kennedy.
"Fine. What happens next?" asked Buffy.
"I just sprinkle this powder across the water in this bowl," said Willow, letting an reddish-orange powder sift between her fingers, "and say the magic word. Aperio!"
Buffy leaned forward, watching the surface of the water. Kennedy stared at Willow with a doubtful look on her face and knelt down beside her.
"Why that color?" asked Kennedy, glancing at the bowl.
"I added paprika," said Willow proudly.
Both Buffy and Kennedy shot her a puzzled look.
"Never mind. Anya would get the joke," groaned Willow. "Just watch."
The water swirled as if an unseen finger was stirring it and then became clear but dark, the surface seemingly frozen. Slowly a face began to take form, emerging as if pushing through a fog. Ever so briefly the face became solid, defined, the visage a young man with sympathetic eyes, his mouth curled in the hint of a smile...as if he recognized Willow. As if he could actually see her now.
And then he was gone.
"Huh. Sure you did that right?" asked Kennedy, peering into the bowl. Willow ignored her, unable to take her eyes from the water.
"What, you know this guy? Is he some kind of warlock?" asked Kennedy, only now noticing that Buffy was staring apprehensively at Willow.
"Buffy, did you see that?" asked Willow, her voice small.
"Yeah," nodded Buffy. Willow slowly turned to look at her.
"How?" said Willow, more to herself than to Buffy. "Or, or why?"
"Hello, what's going on?" asked Kennedy, waving a hand. "Do you know this guy?"
"Yeah," nodded Willow. "His name is Oz."
"Oz. Like the wizard?" blinked Kennedy.
"Yeah," nodded Buffy. "Only he's not. A wizard, I mean."
"Oh. So...who's Oz?" shrugged Kennedy.
"Goodnight," repeated Willow. Kennedy nodded but didn't move.
"We'll talk in the morning. I promise. Thanks for your help," said Willow, touching Kennedy's shoulder.
"Okay," agreed Kennedy reluctantly. She closed the door and Willow leaned back against the wall. Buffy walked over to her and stood in front of her.
"You okay?" whispered Buffy.
"No," answered Willow. "Buffy, you don't think Oz is dead, do you? This could be a trick of the First, messing with my head again."
"No. I so don't understand what's going on, but if something happened to him, I think you'd know somehow. Don't you?"
"I hope so," winced Willow.
Alone now in the hallway, Buffy reached for Willow's wrist, pulling her cold hand against her warm cheek, kissing her wrist.
"Willow, I'm sorry. About before. I was..."
"Oh, hey, no big. I know there's nothing going on between you two," smiled Willow.
Buffy stared at her blankly.
"In the Bronze. You know, with Spike?" explained Willow warily.
"Oh. Uh, actually, I was talking about me with the hands on your neck and the strangulating. Well, the almost strangulating...um, strangulation. Not that breathing was an issue, but hey, I didn't know, ya know?" grinned Buffy painfully.
"Oh," nodded Willow, rolling her eyes. "That's what you meant."
Buffy looked down and took in a deep breath. Unexpectedly, Willow pulled her close.
Buffy's words were silenced by Willow's lips on her own. She turned and pressed Buffy back against the wall. After a while Buffy had to pull away.
"Hey, no fair. I still have to breathe," giggled Buffy. Willow ignored her and again her mouth found Buffy's lips. Pressing her again against the wall, Buffy moaned in response.
"Someone...someone might see us," whispered Buffy out of the corner of her mouth.
"So? Are you telling me you want me to move my hand away?" smiled Willow, looking down.
"No," gasped Buffy. "God no."
Willow kissed her again, then moved her mouth down to Buffy's neck. Reaching up, Willow deftly popped open the button on Buffy's jeans and tugged at the zipper.
"Willow, that's...oh, that's...God, we haven't...it's been so long...um, okay, the nipping has moved past playful," winced Buffy, cringing her neck. "Will, slow down girl. How about letting me...ow! Hey!"
Buffy gently but firmly pushed Willow back and touched her neck. When she looked at her hand there was blood on it. Willow had only broken the skin, but the pain had taken Buffy out of the moment. She glanced at Willow and, eyes wide open, pressed further back against the wall away from her.
Willow stared back at her with her eyes wide in terror, shocked at what she had done. She slowly raised a hand to touch her lips. Looking at her fingers, Willow winced, only now admitting to herself that there was blood on her lips. She turned and stumbled into their bedroom. Buffy zipped and fastened her pants and then quickly followed her, almost bumping into Willow when she entered the room.
Willow simply stood there, staring at the mirror above the dresser. Following her gaze, Buffy gasped, bringing a hand up over her mouth.
Buffy saw her own reflection, but only hers.
Willow slowly but deliberately walked over to the bed and sat down, still staring at the mirror. Buffy took a step towards her.
"Don't!" warned Willow, now not taking her eyes off the floor. Buffy froze, glancing once again at the mirror.
"Willow, I don't understand. What's happened to you?"
"Buffy, your silver cross is on the dresser. Bring it to me," whispered Willow.
Willow simply raised her eyes and stared at Buffy. Buffy nodded. She made her way over to the dresser and lifted the cross by the chain it hung on, letting the cross rest in the palm of her other hand. Once again she looked into the mirror, only seeing the empty bed behind her. Taking a deep breath, drawing strength from it, Buffy turned and walked over to Willow, her footsteps imperceptible in the emptiness of the room.
Holding the cross by its chain, Buffy raised it up between them, her hand shaking. Willow sat there, unblinking, biting her lower lip, eyes focused on Buffy rather than the cross.
"Will, you don't have to do this," said Buffy, her voice pleading. "This isn't real!"
Willow's hand lashed out, her fist closing tightly around the cross. Startled, Buffy let go and stepped back. Willow's hand jerked open and the cross fell to the floor.
Slowly turning over her hand, both Willow and Buffy stared at the burn mark on her palm.
"Not real?" laughed Willow bitterly, lowering her hand.
"But, but your face! It didn't change! Willow, there must be..."
"Buffy, pick up the cross."
"The cross. Pick it up...and put it on," said Willow calmly.
"No. No, I don't need...you wouldn't..."
Buffy just stood there, her eyes darting from Willow to the cross on the floor.
"Buffy, please. For me?" begged Willow, her voice breaking.
Buffy nodded and knelt down, slipping the cross around her neck.
"Thanks," said Willow, barely mouthing the word, no longer able to hold back the tears. Buffy covered the cross with one hand and slowly sat down next to her, wrapping an arm across her shoulder, holding her as close as she dared. Willow covered her face with her hands, too upset to look at Buffy but too terrified to move away.
END OF PART ONE